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Cash sets high goals, plans new programs to engage students

New Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash told The Buffalo News on Tuesday that he intends to stay for the full four years of his contract, and roll out changes as quickly as possible to turn around the struggling city district. While he has no control over whether the School Board ultimately decides to keep him that long, Cash said that unlike his immediate predecessors, he has the experience to make things happen.

“I think you’ve got a top-flight, experienced leader in this work now,” Cash said of himself in a meeting with Buffalo News editors and reporters. “That is different than what you had prior. It’s a known national reputation. Whether people liked everything I did or not, people will tell you they respected what I was doing and what I did in every place that I’ve been. I’m serious about doing it here.”

He added that he has no intention of looking for other jobs and has leased an apartment within easy walking distance of his City Hall office.

Like predecessor Pamela Brown, the district’s last permanent superintendent who lasted just two years, Cash has set high goals. He said he’s aiming for an 80 percent proficiency rate on state tests and a 100 percent graduation rate within five years. Lower expectations only lead to lower results and incremental progress that is insufficient to what the city needs, he said.

Among his priorities, he named improving attendance, increasing accountability and restructuring low-performing schools so that they house more interesting, career-themed programs. That’s the difference between keeping students engaged in school and having them skip classes or drop out, he said.

“Those schools, from my early estimation, that are not criterion-based schools, are where the low-interest, low-motivation, low-attendance rates are,” he said.

Cash said he’s begun reaching out to major players in the community, including business, political and community leaders to eventually cement partnerships that can get new school programs in place.

“You can hound and hammer all you want with parents about getting the kid to school,” he said, “but then when they come to school, if it’s the same drill-and-kill, it’s the same sort of unimaginative and uninspiring teaching that sometimes goes on, then you have a culture aimed at the test ... that kills good teaching and enthusiasm.”